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Assume the following initiative order:

  • Peasant Man
  • Lich Man
  • Cleric Man

Seeing the approaching threat of Lich Man, Peasant Man charges with a pitchfork and is utterly ineffective.

Laughing with delight, Lich Man casts finger of death on Peasant Man who fails their save and dies outright from way too much damage. This fulfills finger of death's requirement of:

A humanoid killed by this spell rises at the start of your next turn as a zombie that is permanently under your command, following your verbal orders to the best of its ability.

Recognizing that the situation is dire, on his turn Cleric Man runs over to Peasant Man's corpse and casts revivify.

Does revivify work and resurrect Peasant Man? If so, how is the turning into a zombie adjudicated from finger of death?


Related:

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Yes, this should work.

Given that there is a period where the peasant is just a corpse (when it was killed) and before it returns as a Zombie (at the start of the FoD Caster's turn), if you can get to the Peasant before the start of the caster's next turn, then you still are hitting all of the requirements for Revivify.

I'm not dead yet

The zombification clause of Finger of Death is (emphasis mine):

A humanoid killed by this spell rises at the start of your next turn as a zombie that is permanently under your command, following your verbal orders to the best of its ability.

In order for that clause to remain active, you can not be alive at the start of the turn. It still requires that you have been killed. If you aren't dead, then you haven't been killed and you can't rise as a zombie.

Let's look a little deeper into the term rise as a game mechanic (credit to @Adam).

Rise does not have a specific mechanic in-game. Due to that, we must default to the natural language meaning of the term which almost certainly means rises from the dead. As a living person cannot rise from the dead, it does not make much sense that a revived and alive creature can rise from the dead. They're just not dead enough.

Plot Hook Idea - What's interesting is that the clause does seem like it remains active. So when that peasant does eventually die...

Rewarding the effort

This move is not necessarily the best move tactically. Using your action to cast the 3rd level spell and consume 300 gp worth of diamonds is not a small price to pay. Given the above reasoning on the mechanics, I think this is both the right call rules-wise and the right call for roleplay itself.

The Counter: Once a zombie, always a zombie

I do want to note that the language is fuzzy here. While I think the above interpretation is reasonable and likely, there is another way of looking at it.

If we focus on the only relevant trigger being Finger of Death killing a creature, then whatever state that creature is in at the start of the Lich's turn doesn't matter.

They're basically harboring the zombie inside and whether they are living or dead, they become a zombie on the next turn. Nothing can stop the Finger of Death!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @AustinDonley Rather than try to convince others to change their answers, we strongly prefer people to write & improve their own answers. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 25 '18 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think Adam's point/comment is pretty good and you might consider adding it to your answer with similar phrasing rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/132396/… \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 25 '18 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose That was a much better way of saying what I said. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 25 '18 at 20:02
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This wouldn't work, due to the wording of the spell. The revivify might work, but at the start of the lich's turn he would still become a zombie.

If we're using the rule as written, which I tend to do, I would say this would not work.

A humanoid killed by this spell rises at the start of your next turn as a zombie that is permanently under your command, following your verbal orders to the best of its ability.

I emphasized killed because this is the most important part of this question. Your assumption is that the creature must be dead to become a zombie at the start of the lich's turn. The spell only specifies that they must have been killed, not still be dead.

Revivify could resurrect that person, but they would be turned into a zombie at the start of the lich's turn anyways, because they were killed by the spell, which is the only trigger that the spell specifies other than "at the start of your next turn".

Also, there seems to be confusion on the wording "rises"

The wording of the spell also states that the humanoid will "rise" as the start of the caster's next turn. I don't believe this means they need to be dead to rise. For example, you would assume a creature with no legs would still be affected by "Irresistible Dance", even though the spell states "shuffling, tapping its feet, and capering".

In summary: Revivify doesn't counter the fact that they were killed, and that is the trigger for the spell (not being dead)


Below is only flavor, because as a player I enjoy hearing the in game reasons, or flavor, behind every action.

This is not information to support my answer, this is only to give you an idea of how you might explain this in game to the players in character.

As a DM, explaining this in game might be tough, but if the cleric were to try to revivfy them, I would flavor it as "The creature's soul is already gone, and under the lich's control. You can try, but it would be in vain as the lich has control of them." I wouldn't want to penalize the character for an action or a spell slot just for trying. I might even award inspiration, but still advise against using the spell slot. I would also flavor this as the cleric knowing the fate of the peasant as he kneels to attempt, having probably revived someone successfully before. This time would be different, for them.

In game, if they went through with the resurrection after my warnings, I would have the humanoid come back to life, thankful but then grotesquely shift into a zombie anyways. It would look painful and terrible.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 25 '18 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just as important as the word "killed" in the spell is the word "rises" that appears later. "Rises" has no explicit in-game meaning, which means that we have to use the natural language meaning of it. In this context, the word "rises" almost certainly means "rises from the dead" which can no longer happen. A living person cannot rise from the dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Sep 25 '18 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adam I see where you're coming from. I would argue that you can rise as a zombie, even as a living humanoid, if you were affected by a spell that states you would. Just as you would assume a creature without legs might still be affected by "Irresistible Dance", even though the spell specifies they would tap their feet. \$\endgroup\$ – Austin Donley Sep 25 '18 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ One does not need legs to dance. One does however need to be dead in order to rise from the dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Sep 25 '18 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adam one does need legs to tap ones feet though \$\endgroup\$ – Austin Donley Sep 25 '18 at 18:39

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